Sunday, 9 October 2011

LIFE OVERSEAS : At home in Germany

ACHTUNG! Greetings from Germany.
At the beginning of this year, there was pandemonium in the school courtyard.

“Oh, there she is!” shouted someone.

“What? Where?” screamed another.
After wandering through the crowd, I saw an unfamiliar face — a new student.
German exchange student Vivien Schneider had blonde hair, a small figure and a sweet smile.
As I offered a handshake and introduced myself, I had no idea that she would become one of my closest friends.

After her six-month stay in Ireland, when everyone said goodbye, I, on the contrary, shouted: “See you in the summer!”
I was planning to fly to Germany.

I bought a plane ticket with my hard-earned money from teaching music part-time.

As the flight was in the wee hours of the morning, I had to spend a night at the airport. I flew to Frankfurt, waited four hours for the connecting flight to Hannover and then took a two-hour car ride to the cosy village of Eberhausen.

Somehow, all the discomfort paled against the excitement of travelling to another country on my own.

Unknown to me, Vivien’s family had planned a week of events for my visit.
For me, three things stood out.

First was the city of Göttingen, famous for its university, which is well known for Medicine.

And what do medical students here do when they graduate?

They don’t throw mortarboards up in the air in celebration.

They hurry to present a bouquet of flowers to Gänseliesel (Goose Lizzy) and plant a kiss on her cheek.

Immortalised as an enchanting fountain, Goose Lizzy was erected in the centre of the city in 1901.

Rumour has it that Gänseliesel’s beauty is everlasting.
The tradition of climbing up the fountain for a kiss after obtaining a medical degree has continued till today.

It is not surprising that Goose Lizzy is probably the most kissed girl in the world.

The second memorable outing was a seven-hour visit to Hannover Zoo.
After the woman at the ticket counter handed me a map of the zoo, the adventure began.

Activities included a boat ride through the African savannah, a hike up Gorilla Mountain, an underwater experience with polar bears and jumping side by side with kangaroos from the Australian outback.

I even got butted painfully by a goat after several failed attempts to feed it.
Despite the blazing sun, we watched an elephant play the harmonica for a cheering audience.

What made it all the more memorable was that one of the elephants, named Sayang, originated from Malaysia.

I imagined Sayang had ears so large — like Dumbo from the Disney movie — she flew from Malaysia to Germany.

The Schneider family made me feel so welcome and at home, they were like relatives.

They fed and cared for me and even called me their Malaysian daughter and sister.

There were countless unforgettable moments with the family such as loading heavy logs onto the trailer of their car to be chopped into firewood at their home, running through wheat fields and even bringing home sheaves of wheat for my mother (she asked for them to hang in her kitchen), making me feel as if I was in a certain cereal advertisement where chocolate was poured all over the field.

Just before I returned to Ireland, we went to the porcelain museum in Fürstenberg.

There was a visitors’ book filled with comments in German at the counter.

I was about to write in English when I stopped abruptly.

I pondered and smiled, and then I penned the words: “Saya berasal dari Malaysia.”

No matter where life takes me, what countries I travel to, I will always be a Malaysian at heart.
Strange but true.

The writer is studying at a high school in Ireland. She loves to try all things but is a Malaysian at heart. Email her at

Read more: LIFE OVERSEAS: At home in Germany

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